Agni Pratistha

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The Treatment of Opiate Addiction With Opiates

For most of human history, people around the world have used opiates for recreation, medical purposes, energy, and even spiritual purposes. Derived from the leaves and other parts of the poppy, there are many different types of opiates, including morphine, Oxycontin, codeine, Fentanyl, heroin, and others. Though people in the United States tend to stigmatize these drugs, many of them have been successfully used for the fentanyl withdrawal treatment of coughs, colds, chronic pain, and other ailments. What’s more striking is that they have been used to treat the addiction to other opiates.

Opium has a long and colored history. Some of the earliest civilized people – the Sumerians and ancient Greeks – used opiates a great deal in their medicinal and religious practices. They even set aside areas of their cities and towns just for the use of these powerful drugs. More importantly, the opium trade has been directly responsible for the destruction, diffusion, and creation of many of the world’s cultures.

However, opium addiction has historically been as widespread as its trade. Historians estimate that at one point, roughly half of the Chinese male population was addicted to various opiates. The country even fought two wars against Great Britain – the Opium Wars – after attempting to alleviate this problem by closing opium trade routes.

Problems with opium changed and worsened in the early nineteenth century, when a German drug company first derived morphine from the poppy plant. This new drug was marketed as a painkiller, as well as an addiction treatment for addiction to other opiates and even alcohol. Unfortunately, morphine users found the drug to be even more addictive than straight opium. During the Civil War alone, over 400,000 soldiers suffered from morphine addiction.

The development and widespread distribution of the hypodermic needle made matters worse. Since intravenous drug use produces a far more powerful and quick-acting high than other methods of consumption, addiction rose to unprecedented levels.

It wasn’t until the latter half of the nineteenth century that the United States government began efforts to control the manufacture and distribution of narcotics. At the same time, another German company created heroine from the poppy plant in an attempt to treat morphine addiction. Heroin reaches the brain much more quickly than morphine, and it thus proved to be even more addictive. People who took it to treat their morphine abuse soon found themselves dependent on this new substance.

For roughly two centuries, medical researchers believed that the development of these new drugs – which were supposed to have fewer side effects and better government regulation – was an effective treatment strategy for people addicted to “more dangerous” opiates. At the beginning of the twentieth century, many doctors were actually in favor of heroin use.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that the medical community began to change its ways. Just before the beginning of World War II, researchers developed methadone, an opiate that does not produce a high. Far less addictive than other opiates, methadone allowed people to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms as they weaned themselves off other opiates.